Court OKs Apollo’s Bid to Acquire Canadian Casino Giant

The proposed acquisition of Great Canadian Gaming by Wall Street buyout fund Apollo Global Management has received court approval, the Canadian casino operator said Thursday.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia blessed the deal after Great Canadian shareholders voted in its favor last week.

New York-based Apollo first approached Great Canadian in August, informing it that it was considering a bid between C$38 and C$41 per share. The private equity firm tabled a formal C$39-a-share offer for the casino operator in early November.

Apollo’s original offer faced heavy protests from some of Great Canadian’s biggest shareholders who complained that at C$3.3 billion (approx. $2.5 billion), it seriously undervalued the casino operator, particularly when taking into account the fact that it controls gambling venues in the Greater Toronto Area.

Apollo eventually sweetened its bid by nearly 16% to C$45 per share. The revised offer reflected the casino company’s share price in February before the coronavirus pandemic hit and forced it to close its properties across Canada and keep them shut for several months.

At a meeting on December 23, around 79% of Great Canadian’s shareholders voted in favor of the revised offer.

After clearing the shareholder vote and securing Supreme Court approval, the deal now needs regulatory approval in order to close.

Transaction Expected to Close in Q2

Apollo is on track to finalize the deal in the second quarter of the year. When this happens, Great Canadian will be delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange. Apollo said its acquisition of the casino operator will help it grow its business since it will have more long-term financial flexibility as a privately held company.

Great Canadian was founded in 1982. The company operates 26 casinos and hospitality facilities in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. After the latest wave of Covid-19 restrictions in Ontario, the company currently has only two properties that are open – Casino New Brunswick, which operates at 25% capacity, and Casino Nova Scotia Sydney, which operates at 20% capacity.

The Canadian casino operator Apollo has chosen to invest in after a long history of involvement in the global gambling industry. Over the past several months, the private equity fund has made the gaming headlines quite frequently announcing investments of various proportions.

In November, the company injected €500 million into Czech lottery operator SAZKA Group to finance its effort to seize the UK National Lottery from its long-time operator Camelot.

Apollo-backed gambling operator Gamenet announced in December that it would acquire IGT’s Italian B2C business in a €950 million cash deal.

Apollo was also one of the participants in a bidding war for William Hill, but that war concluded relatively quickly as the British bookmaker accepted an offer from Caesars Entertainment, Inc. The casino operator plans to sell William Hill’s non-US operations after the takeover closes later this year and Apollo has expressed interest in acquiring those.

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